The Hohokam, American Indians and Mesoamerica

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What You Thought You Knew about Southwest U.S. Indians is probably not right…

Tucson Artifacts can shed light on American Indians

The Tucson Artifacts bear reliable dates in the Christian calendar (560, 705, 775, 800, 880, 885, 900). They document the annals and prosopography of a distinct geopolitical entity, a Roman-styled military kingdom in Toltec Mexico with Jewish leaders from Brittany, the Carolingian or Frankish heartland on the Seine, and Gaul, one that existed for over a century (890-900).

They are straight-forwardly composed in Latin, the official language of records during the Middle Ages. They are plainly written in a script intended for public scrutiny. The circumstances of their manufacture from local lead and their recovery from the desert soil localize them to the place where they were excavated. Finally, they are perfectly preserved, complete, unaltered.

They are diplomatic records, recognizable as being signed and sealed by a public notary (OL). They do not have to be reconstructed, pieced together, deciphered or dated. For all these reasons, such unique witnesses to history are capable of throwing considerable light on American Indian studies, particularly for the otherwise nearly blank eighth and ninth centuries.

Were the Hohokam Toltecs?

The indigenous peoples are described by the Romani as Toltec (Toltezus, 1A, 5A). It is the first appearance of this word in the historical record, predating such chronicles as Tovar by more than five centuries.
The subject peoples whom the Toltec governor/overlord (silvanus, si’wan, “Elder Brother”) rules over are specifically called Toltecs. We are not told what the name of the people that the army of Theodore conquers was. After their subjugation they were also considered Toltecs.

Who were the Hohokam? Though their immediate or remote origins are somewhat speculative, the settled opinion of archeologists is that the Hohokam were a frontier group from Mesoamerica totally unlike the surrounding tribes they joined in the American Southwest at the beginning of what is called the Pioneer Period, about 700 (Whittlesey). Perhaps the best description comes from Albert Schroeder, who followed the diffusionist approach of Charles DiPeso, the Amerind Foundation director who published many volumes on the Mexican trade center Casas Grandes.

According to Schroeder, Hohokam civilization in the Southwest arose from the mechanism of the diffusion of trading families from a “heartland” located in the Pacific-facing regions of Michoacán, Jalisco, Nayarit and Colima far to the south.

The Purépecha, or Tarascan-speaking “Indians,” who still dominate the region, were seaborne intruders from afar themselves. Tarascan means “late arrivals” and the first settlers are believed to have landed in a virtually uninhabited desert around the mouth of the Balsas River, expanding their territory from this new homeland. Adopting the pochteca system, the Tarascans transported their own people in colonies to peripheral areas to exploit the resources of new lands and build trade and industry, including unusual crafts like metalworking.

They inserted themselves in the Phoenix and Tucson basins by conquering the indigenous groups that thinly occupied the region, the Hakataya tribes, or “Old Ones.” In the words of Paul Grebinger, a doctoral dissertation author at the University of Arizona, “After A.D. 600 a group of conquering Mexicans in the form of trading families established themselves bodily in central locations throughout southern Arizona, [where] they were able to exploit the local population and resources and expand into areas as far north as southern Colorado” (p. 169-70).

These mercantile and militaristic rulers probably called themselves Toltecs, as did also the “Romans,” who undertook government of the region. It was a generalized label tantamount to “builder, craftsman, trading family, sophisticate,” not an ethnonym. They brought whole new “trait complexes,” which they blended with the patterns of the subject peoples (“pattern diffusion”). Modern-day pre-Hohokam groups include the Yuman, Quechan, Patayan, Sinagua, Cohonina and Laquish. Toltec is commemorated in the name of at least one Hohokam town, Toltec, Arizona.

According to later historical descriptions, the Toltecs practiced cremation (as did, uniquely, the Southwestern tribes in the Hohokam cultural zone), emphasized a class/caste social hierarchy ruled by a bloodline elite, had guilds and workshops that included the rare crafts of metal-working, shell and turquoise inlay work and copper bell manufacture (as proved in Snaketown and Casas Grandes), understood surveying, architecture, city planning and canal construction, were both literate and numerate and had a calendar.

They are linked with the arrival of ball courts and central plazas in the Southwest, along with copper bells, palettes and other elite symbols. They worshipped Tezcatlipoca, called “Smoking Mirror” by the Aztecs, as their principal deity. Tezcatlipoca was the brother of Quetzalcoatl and patron god of warriors and their camps. His worship has been noted in the formative phases of Hohokam culture at Snaketown and later at Casas Grandes. By contrast, the Aztecs and similar tribes placed the war-god Huitzilopochtli at the top of their pantheon.

Calalus, “Unknown Land”

Calalus, meaning “desert people,” evidently designated a territory corresponding roughly to the Sonoran Desert north of the original intrusive enclave of proto-Tarascans in Michoacán (or possibly, by extension to all of West Mexico).

The greater, embracing geographical term was “Unknown Land,” this a designation from the point of view of the more civilized Toltec founders, who acted as pioneers and colonists. The proto-Tarascans were probably multi-ethnic Pacific Rim peoples who quickly blended with the Mexican Indians, while maintaining their own hierarchies. The mix could have included various foreign merchants arriving under different “flags,” including our “Romans.”

On the Judas-Benjamin-Isaac Cross (6B), the Romani’s trademark R. appears joined with an unidentified Mesoamerican glyph alongside images of the Temple, spice spoons, a brazier, a ship, a Quetzalcoatl face in glory and the abbreviation C.S. (perhaps cassia semptiterna or sacra, “perpetual incense, or qetoret tamid, see Ex. 30:7-8). The glyph is not in the style of the Mayas or Aztecs or Zapotecs. If it could be identified, this would show what Mesoamerican power the Romani were in alliance with. Was it perhaps the Tarascans of Michoacán?

Linguistic Evidence in the History of the Pima

The successor Pima and Papago tribes began as a small constituent of Piman-speaking Sobaipuri from the east (known as Coyote tribes in Hohokam legend) who invaded the Hohokam (or as we may call it, Toltec) territory and conquered the mixed populations about the fourteenth century. They referred to the new lands, towns and inhabitants as “all used up, wasted”—a description surprisingly similar to the meaning of Calalus (an indeclinable plural similar to Toltezus).

As we have suggested, this name for the country called at large Terra Incognita seems to come from the Hebrew k-l-l “all wasted, desert,” with the same unchanging and indeclinable non-Latin ending as Toltezus. Modern-day tribes may refer to the Hohokam as the Ancient Ones, but this is not an etymology, no more than Anasazi is in its meaning of the Ancient Ones, as it is in reality a Navajo word translated literally as “Enemy People.”

In the same way, the Hopi (whose origins were also seaborne) are called the Moquis, an alien word which in their own language they report to mean “dead” (compare Ancient Egyptian mwt “the dead”), and which their linguistically unrelated neighbors like the Zuni and Pueblos “translate” as meaning “wretched, nasty, enemy.”

Besides Hopi (HAp, “priest”), another of their tribal names is Hoki (Hm-KA, “priest of the dead,” this according to my informants their secret name). The same element (mk, Old Egyptian mnxt “divine, holy) occurs in the name of Earth Doctor, or Chuewut Ma-cki, the culture-bringer and founder of the early Hohokam, where it alludes to Magi, Eastern wise men. Its Tohono O’odham/Pima root is mahch, “to have knowledge, skill.”

We can speculate that the original name of Tumamoc Hill was Hill of the Magicians, or Wise Men. The English place-name is conventionally derived from Pima/Papago chemamagi, “horned toad,” and the indigenous name therefore given as Hill or Mountain of the Horned Toad. But chemamagi cannot be analyzed into Pima elements and is obviously alien. A true derivation rather than folk etymology must lead us back in the same direction. Horned Toads was the common way in Southwest American Indian myths and legends to speak of “armored people.”

Analogies abound in Hopi tales as well as the Acoma origin-myth. Our Romani were probably identified with countless ancient visitors and colonists who wore helmets and were interested in the metals of the region. In the same way, the Cherokee mythologized their Stony Clad founders. Tumamoc and Rhoda were viewed as the foreign citadel and capital, both predating the conquest by Theodore in 790.

Epigrapher Barry Fell of Harvard University found that the Zuni language contained a much older loan vocabulary stemming from more southern sources. He detected the Otomi language of Mexico, the Aztec language of Mexico (Nahuatl), a few words from the Huasteca language of Mexico, and pizullilya (circle) and lashokti (ear), Maya words (1976, pp. 177-78). Later, he retranslated Frank Russell’s almost nonsensical Pima songs, as reported by the Smithsonian’s Bureau of Ethnography in 1901-2. He found predominantly Old Arabic with some Maya and other Mexican loan words (1980, pp. 300-314). It is clear from linguistic evidence that Pima history is not uninfluenced by other cultures, some of them from the Earth Doctor’s “world on the other side of the world.” South Asian languages have also been detected in Pima/Tohono O’odham, just as Hindu/Buddhist practices like the lingam are evident today in Tohono O’odham country.

A mixed picture of the New World Amerinds

DNA analysis paints a remarkably mixed picture of the New World Amerinds. Hellenthal and his team in “A Genetic Atlas of Human Admixture History” present two opposite strains that meet in the Pima. Strain 1, described as the Turkish side, shows Greek 5.6%, Daur (a Mongolic-speaking ethnic group in northeastern China) 1.7% and Sardinian 1.0%. Less than 1.0% on this side of Pima mixed ancestry are Maya, Xibo (a Tungusic people living mostly in Xinjiang, Jilin, bordering North Korea), Polish, Karitiana (an indigenous people of Brazil), Mozabite, Druze, Columbian and Bedouin. These traces are quantitatively low, but distinct and not to be dismissed. On Side 2, labeled as the Maya-like, we find Maya 54.4%, Columbian 7.0%, Karitiana (Brazilian tribe) 4.6%, Japanese 2.9%, Surui (indigenes of Brazil) 2.4%, Han Chinese 2.3%, Orogen (dubbed “Chinas’s last hunting tribe” by the press) 1.9%, Hazara (Afghan) 1.6%, Chuvash (Turkic ethnic group, native to an area stretching from the Volga Region to Siberia) 1.4%, Yakut (another Turkic Siberian native group) 1.0%, Burasho (northern Pakistan, all today Ismaili Muslims) 1.0% and Hezhen (Jurchens of Manchuria) 0.8%.

Only ancient movement of people from the homelands of the ethnic groups identified (“historical mixture events at a fine scale,” in the words of the Hellenthal study) can account for this situation. The surprising results clearly demonstrate a large Maya bedrock population marked with veins of Greek, Sardinian and other Old World origin, including Afghan, Mozabite (North African), Druze (Palestinian), Bedouin and Pakistani. Nor is any of this admixture modern, the result of an Italian Jesuit priest perhaps or mine workers imported from Spanish Mexico. The sparsely populated island of Sardinia, which has a unique genetic signature, has never been noted for any sizable outward movement of its inhabitants. The fact that it was an important Phoenician colony, well known for its copper, silver and gold mining down to Roman times, supports Fell’s thesis about Mediterranean peoples colonizing the American Southwest. Druze, Mozabite, Polish, Bedouin and Columbian may point to a distant Semitic contribution.

Han Chinese and Japanese ancestries must be understood differently from the signatures of the various hunter-gatherer Turkic groups like the Yakut. The footprint of these civilized nations of the Far East in Southwest tribes lends support to the work of scholars like Nancy Yaw Davis, Siu-Leung Lee, Charlotte Harris Rees and Edward Vining.

In summary, the earliest Hohokam from about the year 700 to 800 were Toltecs from Mesoamerica, who in turn were a product of Pacific Rim diffusion of peoples. The Aztecs later immigrated from the same area of the American Southwest. The “bedrock” people, who blended with the Mexican tribes, were similar to the Yuman/Quechan archaic Indian tribes who had not been exposed to town life, architecture or central government.

The Pueblo and Zuni tribes’ origins were mixed with ancient Old World cultures, as suggested by their languages and use of adobe architecture, along with their legends. Southwest cultures did not develop independently of each other or the rest of America. They received the spark of civilization and signal advances in lifeways from Mesoamerica, with its culture bearers from the opposite side of the Pacific Ocean, including merchant adventurers from Europe via India and China. This “diffusionist” model sorely needs to applied to other regional studies in American anthropology. The Tucson Artifacts may be considered as Exhibit A in the casework. It is a small step in our conceptual framework from “pattern diffusionism” to “hyper-diffusionism” when the world formed a unified ecumene, as it did in the eighth to tenth centuries.

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